ANAXARETE TRANSFORMED“Iphis, born of a humble family,
had seen the famed Anaxarete, who
was of the race of ancient Teucer.—He
had seen her and felt fire inflame his bones.
Struggling a long time, he could not subdue
his passion by his reason, so he came
a suppliant to her doors. And having now
confessed his ardent passion to her nurse,
besought her by the hopes reposed in her
by the loved girl, not to give him a cold heart
and at another time, with fair words given
to each of many servants he besought
their kindest interest with an anxious voice.
He often gave them coaxing words engraved
on tablets of soft wax; and sometimes he
would fasten garlands, wet with dew of tears,
upon the door-posts; and he often laid
his tender side nightlong on the hard threshold,
sadly reproaching the obdurate bolt.
“Deafer than the deep sea that rises high
when the rainy Constellation of the Kids
is setting; harder than the iron which
the fire of Noricum refines; more hard
than rock which in its native state is fixed
firm rooted; she despised and laughed at him,
and, adding to her cruel deeds and pride,
she boasted and deprived him of all hope.
“Iphis, unable to endure such pain prolonged,
spoke these, his final words, before her door:
‘Anaxarete, you have conquered me,
and you shall have no more annoyances
to bear from me. Be joyful and prepare
your triumph, and invoke god Paean, crown
yourself with shining laurel. You are now
my conqueror, and I resigned will die.
Woman of iron, rejoice in victory!
“At least, you will commend me for one thing,
one point in which I must please even you,
and cause you to confess my right of praise.
Remember that my star crossed love for you
died only with the last breath of my life.
And now in one short moment I shall be
deprived a twofold light; and no report
will come to you, no messenger of death.
But doubt not, I will come to you so that
I can be seen in person, and you may
then satiate your cruel eyesight with
my lifeless body. If, you gods above!
You have some knowledge of our mortal ways
remember me, for now my tongue can pray
no longer. Let me be renowned in times
far distant and give all those hours to Fame
which you have taken from my life on earth.’
“Then to the doorpost which he often had
adorned with floral wreaths he lifted up
his swimming eyes and both his pallid arms,
and, when he had fastened over the capital
a rope that held a dangling noose, he said,—
“Are these the garlands that delight your heart?
You cruel and unnatural woman?”—Then,
thrust in his head, turning even then towards her,
and hung a hapless weight with broken neck.
“The door, struck by the motion of his feet
as they were quivering, seemed to utter sounds
of groaning, and, when it flew open, showed
the sad sight. All the servants cried aloud,
and after they had tried in vain to save him,
carried him from there to his mother's house,
(to her because his father was then dead).
“She held him to her bosom and embraced
the cold limbs of her dead child. After she
had uttered words so natural to the grief
of wretched mothers—after she had done
what wretched mothers do at such sad times,
she led a tearful funeral through the streets,
the pale corpse following high upon the bier,
on to a pyre laid in the central square.
By chance, Anaxarete's house was near
the way through which the mournful funeral
was going with the corpse, and the sad sound
of wailing reached the ears of that proud girl—
hardhearted, and already goaded on
by an avenging god. Moved by the sound,
she said; “Let me observe their sniveling rites.”
And she ascended to an upper room,
provided with wide windows. Scarcely had
she looked at Iphis, laid out on the bier,
when her eyes stiffened, and she turned all white,
as warm blood left her body. She tried then
to turn back from the window, but she stood
transfixed there. She then tried to turn her face
away from that sad sight, but could not move;
and by degrees the stone, which always had
existed, petrified in her cold breast,
and took possession of her heart and limbs.
“This is not fiction, and that you may know,
Salamis keeps that statue safe today,
formed of the virgin and has also built
a temple called, ‘Venus the watchful Goddess.’
Warned by her fate, O sweet nymph, lay aside
prolonged disdain, and cheerfully unite
yourself to one who loves you. Then may frost
of springtime never nip your fruit in bud,
nor rude winds strike the blossom.”
When the god,
fitted for every shape, had said these words in vain,
he laid the old woman's form aside and was
again a youth. On her he seemed to blaze,
as when the full light of the brilliant Sun,
after it has dispelled opposing clouds,
has shone forth with not one to intercept.
He purposed violence, but there was then
no need of force. The lovely nymph was charmed,
was captivated by the god's bright form
and felt a passion answering to his love.